Oil and gas exploration and production in Bass Strait

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Oil and gas exploration and production in Bass Strait

Bass Straight Oil

In 1985, oil production from the offshore Gippsland Basin peaked to an annual average of 450,000 barrels per day (bbls/d). In the fiscal year 2005/2006, the average daily oil production declined to 83,000 barrels a day. Bass Straight oil production still amounts to between 17% - 19% of Australia’s oil and 42% of LPG.[1]

There are now 21 offshore platforms and installations in Bass Strait, which feed a network of 600km of underwater pipelines. In 2011 that number will increase to 23, with the addition of the new Marlin B platform and Kipper sub-sea wells.[2] The sections of rigging [some believed to be purchased from Indonesia] are fitted out in modules at the Barry Beach workshops and then moved out to sea.

The Gippsland basin is a major crude oil province and important gas producer with initial proven reserves of ca 4.2 billions crude condensate 720 MMbbls LPG and 4 @ Tcf gas [2007]. Future estimates in the US Geological Survey amount to 600 million barrels of liquids and 5 Tcf of gas.[3] Port Anthony is expected to grow accordingly, but it is not without problems, the Corner Inlet is narrow and the channel is not deep enough to accommodate the large gas and oil tankers.

Wild cat wells

On the 28th April 2010 Esso/Mobil announced the discovery of gas and oil at the South East Remora -1 exploration wild cat well, the latest in several finds in the Bass Strait. The new well, located just 35 kilometres off the Victorian coastline is one of the Latrobe and Golden Beach groups in the Gippsland Basin. The well was drilled in 57 metres of water to a depth of 3,602 metres below sea level and is 50% owned by Esso Australia Resources, a subsidiary of ExxonMobil and 50% the property of BHP Billiton Petroleum.[4] The announcement drew public attention because it followed the accident on the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico. The explosion and subsequent fire on the Deepwater rig was about 64 km southeast of the Louisiana coast in the Macondo Prospect oil field. The explosion killed 11 workers and injured 17 others; another 98 people escaped without serious physical injury. The rig was destroyed and it left an ongoing oil spill. The Deepwater Horizon platform commenced drilling the exploratory well in February 2010 at a water depth of approximately 1,500 metres. The planned well was to be drilled to 5,600 metres below sea level. There was no known precedent for dealing with an accident at these depths.

Australia had already had a deepwater oil spill off the west coast. The accident on the Montara West Atlas rig happened in similar circumstances to that of the Deepwater Horizon, gas was escaping and the rig burst into flames. It burned at temperatures of 350 degrees for two days before the well was plugged. All 69 workers were luckily evacuated.[5]

However, these incidents raised questions about the safety of deepwater drilling off the coast of Gippsland where there is considerable seismic activity.


Articles and resources

References

  1. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Oil
  2. ExxonMobil, "Bass Strait", ExxonMobil website, accessed March 2011.
  3. Oilbasins Limited, "Gippsland Basin", Oilbasins Limited website, accessed March 2011.
  4. "Drill Baby Drill", Arena Magazine, No 107, April 28, 2010.
  5. Andrea Hayward, "Timor oil leak was 'potentially catastrophic'", The Age, March 15, 2010.

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